A luxury presidential plane which Mexico had been trying to offload for more than four years has finally arrived in its new home – Tajikistan.
President López Obrador made the sale of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner one of his campaign promises, calling it a symbol of previous governments’ excesses. But the specially-outfitted plane proved hard to shift and an attempt to raffle it off failed. It was finally sold to the Tajik government for $92m (£73.7m).
The jet took off from California, where it had been in storage, and arrived in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, early on Monday. The plane was originally purchased in 2012 by the president at the time, Felipe Calderón, for $218m (£175m). It was then used by Mr Calderón’s successor, Enrique Peña Nieto. Mr López Obrador vowed to never set foot in it. He has been using commercial flights since he took office.
However, the sale of the plane was beset by problems. While the plane has a luxurious interior, including a presidential bedroom and marble and mahogany finishings, the fact that it was modified to carry only 80 passengers makes it an extremely expensive mode of transport per passenger.
It went on the market on 2 December 2018, a day after Mr López Obrador was sworn in. When no buyer was found, he suggested raffling off.
But while winning a presidential plane may sound like a dream come true, the sheer cost of storing and maintaining such a jet are astronomical, and the raffle soon became the subject of jokes in Mexico.
Instead, the government organised a symbolic raffle, in which buyers could win the value of the plane in cash.
But interest in the symbolic raffle was low, with fewer than 61% of tickets sold.
With maintenance costs continuing to add up over the years, the government’s relief at finally finding a buyer last month were clearly visible.
In his joy at being rid of the plane and fulfilling his campaign promise, President López Obrador even boarded the plane and had himself filmed inside its luxurious interior.
The president said the proceeds from the sale would be used to build two new hospitals in Guerrero and Oaxaca state.
Tajikistan officials have not revealed who will be using the jet but as it left the hangar in California where it had been kept, it already had “Tajikistan” emblazoned on its body.